September 26, 2023 By Paul Wallin

Can You Go To Jail For Leaving A Child Home Alone?

No one wants to think about going to jail, but it’s important to know the law when deciding if your child is ready to stay home alone. In California, leaving a child unattended is illegal and can lead to criminal charges depending on the specific circumstances of the case. 

Under California Penal Code section 273a, it is illegal to leave a child under the age of 18 in any situation where the child would suffer harm or be in danger. This includes leaving a child at home alone if they’re too young and there’s no one else around to take care of them. The exact age varies depending on the child’s maturity level and the location, but generally speaking children must be over the age of 12 before they can be left home alone for extended periods of time.

If you are facing these charges, you need an aggressive defense attorney on your side. Choosing Wallin & Klarich to represent your case puts you in a better position to receive the best outcome for your case. We have over 40 years of experience in Southern California. Call us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL  for your free appeal consultation!

California Penal Code 273a – Child Endangerment

California Penal Code 273a is a crucial piece of legislation that ensures the safety and well-being of children. The law specifically targets those who willfully cause or permit a child to suffer unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering, or willfully endanger a child’s health under conditions likely to produce great bodily harm or death. 

Child endangerment charges can be filed by the prosecutor even if the child does not experience physical harm. The key requirement is the presence of unwarranted physical or mental harm inflicted upon the child. If you or a loved one face child endangerment charges in California, it is crucial to understand the following terms:

“Willfully” refers to knowingly and intentionally engaging in an action. It is possible to be charged with this offense even without intending to violate the law or cause harm.

“Unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering” encompasses excessive or unreasonable distress or agony considering the circumstances.

Therefore, child endangerment accusations can arise based on unjustifiable physical or mental harm inflicted on a child, even in the absence of actual physical injury. 

Leaving a child who is unable to care for themselves home alone can qualify for prosecution under this law. If you have been accused of this crime, you need an experienced defense attorney on your side who can help you get the best outcome for your case. Call our office today for a free consultation!


A child endangerment conviction can lead to life-altering penalties. In addition to jail time and fines, you could lose custody of your children. Because of this, your personal relationships could suffer as well. Some possible penalties include:

  • Misdemeanor
    • Up to 1 year in county jail
    • Up to $1,000 fine
  • Felony
    • Up to 6 years in prison
    • Up to $10,000 fine

While it may seem your life is over with a child endangerment conviction, it doesn’t have to be. Our attorneys at Wallin & Klarich know the best defenses to raise for the best possible outcome for your case. This could potentially include getting your charges lessened or dropped altogether. Calling our office costs you nothing, but it could be the difference between freedom and jail time. Call us today!

Possible Defenses

Some possible defenses our attorneys have used in the past include:

Lack of Willfulness

Your attorney can argue that you did not intentionally commit the act in question. For example, if your babysitter negligently places your child under the care of an abusive individual without your consent, you cannot be held accountable for violating child endangerment laws since you did not willfully expose the child to harm.

Absence of Criminal Negligence

A child endangerment conviction necessitates the establishment of criminal negligence. Your lawyer can contend that any actions leading to the charge were a result of ordinary carelessness, momentary inattention, or a lapse in judgment. If proven, this would absolve you of criminal negligence regardless of the outcome or consequences.

However, each case differs greatly and therefore the best defenses will vary by each case. This is why it is important to hire a skilled defense attorney who can look at your case and find the best possible defenses to raise. Our attorneys at Wallin & Klarich can help you through every step of your case, including finding the best defenses for your case. We offer exceptional service, experience, and affordable payment options to help you manage the cost of hiring a defense attorney. Call our office today for a free consultation!

Contact Wallin & Klarich Today 

If you are facing a child endangerment charge, you need an aggressive defense attorney to fight for your freedom. With 40+ years of experience, our attorneys at Wallin & Klarich have helped thousands of clients win their cases or get their charges reduced to a lesser degree. We know the most effective defenses to argue on your behalf, and we will do everything in our power to help you achieve the best possible result in your case. 

You may not be aware of all your options. Calling our office costs you nothing, but picking up the phone could be the difference between years in prison and years of freedom. Let our skilled attorneys examine your case to find the best way to avoid prison.Discover how our team can assist you. Contact us today, toll-free at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free consultation with a skilled defense attorney.

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